“Then God said: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth. God created mankind in his image; in the image of God, he created them; male and female, he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.”Gen 1:26-28
Marriage is God’s idea, and everything God does is for our good. You might think of it this way, says Dr. Mary Healy, “when God wanted to make an image of Himself, He made a man and a woman and called them to marriage.” In this passage, God teaches us something about His Divine Nature; it is Trinitarian. The “us and our” points to the invisible mystery of who God is, a communion of Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is a relationship of the eternal exchange of love. Our marriages are supposed to mirror this Trinitarian love to the world.
Pope Benedict XVI framed it this way, God the Father, who is Love itself, freely pours Himself in totality, eternally, unconditionally to the Son. In turn, He receives all of that love and returns it fully, unconditionally, to the Father. That love between Father and Son IS the Holy Spirit. How is marriage supposed to image that mystery? (I’m glad you asked)
Being a husband means pouring yourself out in love to your wife, freely, totally, unconditionally. She is to receive the full outpouring of his love without condition or reservation, joining her love to his and returning it to him. With God’s creative consent, nine months later, this exchange of their unconditional love needs a name. Love is more significant than the two of us. It is lifegiving, in imitation of the Trinitarian God. Mind-blowing, right! Our marriages are supposed to image to the world a little peek of God’s unconditional, irrevocable, never gives up on us, kind of love.
Sadly, many of us never knew or were ever taught this. Not to worry, God is very patient in waiting until we are ready to receive this truth. Sadly, there is a shortage of witnesses who embody happy, faithful, fruitful, mutually satisfying marriages. Our experience of heartbreak in our marriages may cause us to doubt that happy marriages are achievable. The good news is this, God is faithful, and likewise, we should never give up on each other. There are many excellent resources available that can turn things around for your marriage. Check out, Worldwide Mariage Encounter or Retrouvaille to jump start your marriage again.
Spoiler alert! Men and women are different, and it is part of God’s plan. Our complementarity should not cause competition. Like ballroom dancers, grace transforms our work together by leading and being led in unison. We need to make space for our spouse to “lead” us ladies, requiring patience, respect, and encouragement. Gentlemen, we want to be led, protected and feel confident in your leadership. God works in different ways through each of us, but together. Equal does not mean the same. Deacon James Keating says we need to appreciate our differences and recognize how God made men and women different. It is intended to be a great gift to our families and us. We are on the same team in a partnership for life.
Marriage takes work because it is two imperfect, sinful people learning to die to selfishness and become one.
Venerable Bishop Sheen reminds us it takes three for our marriage to succeed. God, husband, and wife praying with and for the other.
It is easy to commiserate with others when our spouse hurts or irritates us. Their sympathetic advice isn’t always wise or helpful; leaving a spouse that doesn’t “make you happy” will not make you happy. The purpose of marriage is not to “make you happy; it is to make you holy.” Happiness is a byproduct of holiness. God can use our spouse to bring us closer to Him and grow us in holiness. Healing cannot occur if we walk away. Marriage is for life because it takes a lifetime to learn to love our spouse in the way he/she deserves. It took both of us to consent to marriage, and it will take both of us and God’s help to live out our vows. We must often pray for and with our spouse.
Finally, one last reminder that we must be aware of, Catholics are bound by Canonical form when it comes to Sacraments. If you are a Baptized Catholic, you are bound to follow the proper form for the Sacrament of Marriage. This means going through the Church to prepare for and marry in the arms of Mother Church. If a Catholic chooses to marry outside the Church and does not have the proper dispensation, they put their marriage in an irregular situation. You may hear couples talk about getting their marriage “blessed/recognized” in the Church, a process that is a great grace to their marriage relationship. Frequently I am told how it “transformed their marriage.”
In an irregular marriage, one is encouraged to attend Mass; however, avoid receiving Communion until the situation is corrected. Additionally, it impacts eligibility to be a godparent or Confirmation sponsor until corrected. This often comes as a surprise to couples and seems unfair or hard to understand. Yet the Church, in her wisdom, joyfully invites couples to correct the impediment, and in the process, the marriage receives all the beneficial graces necessary to flourish in married life.
Sunday, February 13th, was World Marriage Day. Sister Lucia dos Santos, one of the three children of Fatima, predicted that the ‘final battle’ would be over marriage and family. Marriage and family life are under attack and at the heart of the battle and becoming casualties daily.
What will you do to fortify yours?